By Muyiwa Adetiba
I have neither the space nor the heart to produce the emotional letter a son wrote his recently deceased father in full here. I have read the letter at least twice. Each time I did, I felt a lump in my throat. I am a father, and for over three decades before my father passed on, a son.
I can therefore, easily put myself in the position of a father or a son in the letter which starts with ‘Dad, knowing that I will never see you again is a hard pill to swallow’. It then goes on to talk about the little things that make a father/son relationship special.
How he brought his partner home at 28 last year and his dad teased that the son needed to do catch up because he got married at 26. How he got his own back when he started his PHD programme and teased his father that he too needed to do catch up because his dad finished his PHD at 49 and he would most likely finish his own at 32.
He recollected the pride in his father as he started calling him Dr… If you have ever teased your son or been teased by your son, then you can relate with the obvious affection, the intimacy in the narrative. The letter then talks about how the son had given up on Nigeria because he doesn’t feel safe there ‘and home is where you are safe’.To which his dad retorted ‘home is where you are from. Nigeria is your home’. How many times have we told this to our children in the diaspora?I know I have. In the light of what is going on in Nigeria now, the statement is beginning to sound hollow. The argument that there is insecurity everywhere is easily defeated because few governments pay lip service to insecurity like we do.
His dad buttressed his points by talking about the Nigeria that raised and educated him – he was, like me, a product of free but qualitative primary education. He had, according to the son, a glowing image of his formative years and wanted to give back to the country. His farm was one of the ways he thought of doing that. His dad was Dr Fatai Aborodo who was allegedly killed in front of the said farm by Fulani herdsmen. A well-educated, well-bred man was brutally killed by ill-educated, ill-bred bandits. A man who had invested in his family and his country was wasted by people who cared nothing for family and country. A man who had so much to lose because he had improved his lot was murdered by people who had nothing to lose because they have no self-worth. The Nigeria he believed in; the Nigeria he called home had let him down. What is worse is that his family might never find closure because his killers might never be found, let alone held accountable.
The son ends the letter with words that will stay with me for a while. ‘Dad, I’ll write you yearly. I’ll keep you up to date about everything we have achieved since you left and we know you will be happy to read them’. You see, to his killers, he was one more killing. To the police he was another addition to their statistics. To his community, he was probably a good man. But to his family, he was irreplaceable; someone whose untimely death will forever leave a void.
It would be bad enough if his death was a one off. Or if the perpetrators would be apprehended. Unfortunately that is not the case. His death was just one of the multiple killings in the country and the increasing death toll in the South-West. People are routinely killed and maimed on their way to their farms. People are routinely kidnapped on the highways and taken to the bushes. The farmer/herder clashes started in the Middle belt and because the body language of the men at the top condoned it, has spread South. The presidency hardly finds its voice when the killing, maiming and raping go on and when it does, you wish it had remained mute. Like when the President told Governor Ortom to learn to accommodate his fellow Nigerians. Or when the Presidential spokesman reminded Governor Akeredolu of the right of Nigerians to reside anywhere in the country. You have to ask if that is all they have to say to people who are being displaced from their ancestral homes; who are being driven from their means of livelihood; who are being killed on their beds. Or if that is the answer to the banditry going on almost everywhere in the country. Economic migration is one thing – many of us are economic migrants to the cities at least. Banditry is another thing altogether. You don’t take over people’s land and property as an economic migrant. You don’t kill and maim wantonly as an economic migrant. You certainly don’t impose your way of life on the community as an economic migrant.
A close friend of mine has always been fascinated with agriculture like me. But unlike me, he has the drive and the resources to do something about it. He calls himself a ‘government pikin’ because he retired as a senior military officer. He is also medical doctor. He lives a simple life which can easily be financed through his standing income.
And at over 70, he really doesn’t need the farm for sustenance. His farm was basically to empower his community and give back to his people. On December 19, he sent me graphic images of how herdsmen desecrated his farm. They destroyed his banana trees, uprooted his tubers, took time to roast some, gave some to their cows and took some away. On their way out, they destroyed the farm house. The scale of destruction wasn’t borne out of any economic need. It was wanton. It was punitive. And it was done with impunity. It was not the action of people who were accommodating and wanted to be accommodated. It makes you wonder if there is more to the presence of these Fulani herdsmen in Yorubaland. After all, Fulanis had always been living peaceably in Yorubaland. It also makes you wonder if there is more to the acquiescence and tacit complicity of some people at the centre to the atrocities of these criminals.
We saw how America is handling the assault on Capitol Hill. It is being treated there as an insurrection and the perpetrators are being treated as criminals irrespective of their ideologies and political motives. We should learn from them. Crime must be distinct from ethnicity, religion or economic migration. Criminals and their sponsors must be held accountable if we want to have a country. Otherwise, many war lordslike Sunday Igbohowill spring up in unlikely places to defend their ancestral land. The stakes are getting higher.
Those governors and leaders who are playing politics with the lives and livelihood of their people will look back one day soon to find that their people are no longer following them.